In this one-page over-view I’ll explore everything, including signs, possible causes, and the potential consequences of shopping addiction. Over time I’ll add links to more detail and data, both on this site and external. Whether you’re concerned about your own shopping habits or want to help someone you care about, I hope you’ll find this page interesting and helpful.
Table of Contents
- What is Shopping Addiction?
- Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction
- Causes of Shopping Addiction
- The Cycle of Shopping Addiction
- Impact of Shopping Addiction
- Distinguishing Shopping Addiction from Normal Shopping
- Supporting a Loved One with Shopping Addiction
1. What is a Shopping Addiction?
Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder, is a behavioral addiction. As such it’s not a conventional chemical addiction such as nicotine or alcohol.
Note that it is also not officially recognized as a distinct disorder in the shrink’s official bible of diagnosis (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5). It’s just considered a type of impulse control disorder or categorized under “behavioral addictions,” but it doesn’t have its own separate classification in the DSM.
So technically it’s not a ‘real’ addiction and it’s not a ‘real disorder’ – but I can assure you it’s a very real, serious problem that can grow and grow, ultimately wrecking your life!
In a nutshell, it’s characterized by an overwhelming desire to make purchases that lead to long-term negative consequences.
When you have a shopping addiction you’ll likely experience a sense of excitement or pleasure while shopping, which temporarily relieves negative symptoms such as stress, anxiety, or boredom. However, this relief is short-lived, and as the addictive behavior persists it causes financial strain – which can lead to all kinds of problems – plus relationship and emotional issues, which over time can also affect your physical health too.
2. Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction
Here are some common indicators of a real shopping addiction. See how many you recognize in yourself?
- You’re Spending Beyond Your Means: You find yourself constantly buying things you don’t really need, and it’s putting a dent in your wallet, purse or bank account
- You Downplay the Cost: You often catch yourself hiding the real price tags or making excuses such as “It was discounted on sale”
- The Emotional Rollercoaster: You feel a rush of excitement when you shop, but it’s quickly followed by guilt or regret
- You Can’t Seem to Stop: Even when you know it’s causing problems, you can’t resist the urge to shop or spend
- Shopping Consumes Your Thoughts: You’re always thinking about your next shopping spree or scrolling through online stores.
- Retail Therapy Isn’t Working: You use shopping as a band-aid for stress or sadness, but it’s not fixing anything
- Your Finances Are in a Mess: You’re racking up serious debt and feeling the financial strain, all thanks to your shopping habits.
- You’re Keeping Secrets: You feel embarrassed about your shopping and try to hide it from your friends and family
- Shopping Trumps Other Activities: You’re skipping out on other hobbies or activities you used to enjoy, just to go shopping.
- Your Responsibilities Are Slipping: Your shopping is getting in the way of work, school, or your family
- You’re Skirting the Law: You’ve even resorted to shoplifting or other illegal means to keep the shopping going
If you resonate with any of these signs, it’s an indication that you do have a problem, but if you identify with several of them then yes, you could be considered to have a real shopping addiction!
The more you identify with the greater the harm and stress it’s likely to cause if you let it continue, so let’s look at some common reasons…
3. Causes of Shopping Addiction
The causes of shopping addiction are complex and can vary from person to person, indeed my entire approach to hypnotic-coaching is to uncover the deep, real cause or causes hiding below your conscious awareness. However for the sake of completeness, here are some of the more common or recognized factors that may be contributing to the development of your shopping addiction:
- Filling a Void with Grief and Loss: You shop to fill an emotional gap left by a loss, but it’s not working, is it?
- Angry at Life? You may feel shopping will even the score, but it’s just digging you deeper into a hole
- Depressed and Looking for a Lift: You shop to feel better, but the high is temporary and the lows are lasting
- Stressed or Anxious? You turn to shopping as a comfort blanket, but it’s not solving the real issue
- Trying to Fit In: You shop to keep up with the Joneses, but it’s not making you any happier
- Seeking Power and Control: You feel empowered when you shop, but it’s a false sense of control
- Bored and Seeking Thrills: You shop for the excitement, but the thrill is fleeting while the bills keep building
- Distracting from Low Self-Esteem: You shop to escape feelings of worthlessness, but it’s making your self-esteem worse
- Feeling Entitled or Overcompensating: You shop as a reward, but at too high a cost
- Rebelling or Finding Your Identity: You shop to break free, but it’s trapping you instead
- Dealing with Other Mental Health Issues: Your shopping addiction might be a sidekick to other mood or anxiety disorders
- Swayed by Society: You’re influenced by ads and norms that equate shopping with happiness, but it’s a false promise
- Using Shopping as a Coping Mechanism: You shop to deal with negative emotions, but it’s a Band-Aid that doesn’t stick, it’s not a cure
- Driven by Materialism: You crave material things for validation, but it’s not fulfilling you
- Falling for My Marketing Tricks (Sorry!): Ads and impulse triggers are keeping your shopping addiction going, leaving you trapped in a downhill spiral… This one is on marketers like me, but the bad guys n gals. I’m one of the good guys… 😉 Well I can help you anyway!
4. The Cycle of Shopping Addiction
Talking of downhill spirals, shopping addiction often follows a cyclical pattern that reinforces the addictive behavior:
- What Sets You Off: You feel stressed, bored, or down, and that’s your cue to start shopping
- The Rush of Buying: You dive into shopping to chase away those bad vibes, and for a moment, it works
- The Aftermath: Once the thrill fades, you’re left with guilt, regret, or even shame
- Your Wallet’s Crying: Your shopping sprees are causing financial headaches, like debt or unpaid bills
- Can’t Stop Thinking About It: You’re constantly daydreaming about your next shopping adventure
- Back to Square One: And just like that, another trigger hits, and you’re back in the cycle
- Rinse and… Ruin? As the cycle cycles, your life starts falling apart…
Understanding how you’re stuck in a loop can be the first step to breaking free, before the ‘life falling apart’ thing! Now let’s look that thing straight in the eye…
5. Impact of Shopping Addiction
Why do I say you should give the ‘life falling apart’ thing the ol’ stink-eye? Because accepting the real-world consequences of your shopping or spending addiction is crucial for taking the first REAL steps toward recovery.
You’ve already tried ‘Setting a budget’. Perhaps you’ve tried ‘Keep a spending journal’ to see where you’re wasting money – but you already know where, don’t you? The point is, compulsive spending is a serious problem, and so you need to get serious. Here’s why:
- Your Finances Are Tanking: If not already, then soon you’re drowning in debt and maybe even facing bankruptcy because of your spending habits. You can end up losing your lifestyle, right down to losing the home you’re living in
- Love Life and More on the Rocks: Your shopping addiction will or is already causing tension and trust issues in your relationships, at first some, and eventually ALL of your relationships get damaged, including your relationship with yourself, which can be a terrible thing
- Emotional Toll: You’re weighed down by guilt, shame, or depression, because you can’t rein in your shopping, but these things will tend to trigger even more compulsive shopping, which in turn can destroy your self-esteem, which ruins your motivation, which leaves you even more vulnerable, which… You can see the spiral, right?
- Work’s Taking a Hit: Your shopping addiction can or already is messing with your job performance, and in a variety of ways it can even cost you your job or career, from being distracted to even getting into….
- Legal Hot Water: If you’re resorting to theft or fraud to keep shopping, that’s putting you at risk of more than just punishment for that crime, as a criminal record can get you fired or blocked from many careers, as well as create problems when travelling etc.
They key point to understand here is how, by definition, if you cannot control your behavior then you cannot control your behavior, and that includes how you cannot stop that behavior from sliding further and further downhill. So it’s crucial to actually accept and face the seriousness of your problem, before things get even worse...
But wait, do you really have a problem? We’ve covered some of the signs of a real compulsion earlier, but let’s break it down a bit, between normal fun ‘retail therapy’, and something that, if it continues, will ruin your life.
6. Distinguishing Shopping Addiction from Normal Shopping
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of shopping addiction is important before you let it get out of control, but also before committing to intervention or treatment, especially before taking psychiatric drugs.
Enjoying shopping or making occasional large purchases does not necessarily mean you have a real shopping addiction! Likewise, feeling doubt and regret after an extra-large purchase is quite normal. When I’m training new salespeople I tell them how a big buy, such as a new kitchen or a new car, often creates ‘buyer’s remorse’ and how to deal with that expected reaction.
So here are the key distinctions between the two:
- You Shop with a Plan: You buy what you need and stick to your list
- Budget? No Problem: You know your limits and stay within your budget
- Casual Shopper: You enjoy shopping, but it doesn’t seem to consume your life
- No Obsession: You’re not constantly thinking about shopping or endlessly scrolling online
- Impulse Buys Galore: You can’t resist buying stuff you don’t really need
- Budget? What Budget? You’ve lost control of your spending, and it’s hurting your finances, maybe really badly
- Can’t Stop Thinking About It: You’re always planning your next shopping spree, or you’re browsing online daily
- Shopping to Feel Better: You’re using shopping as a quick fix for your bad mood or other negative emotions
- Life’s Taking a Backseat: Your shopping habit is affecting your responsibilities or your relationships, or both
If you find that your shopping habits align more closely with the signs of shopping addiction, it may be time to talk to me?
My approach does not require months or even years of regular therapy sessions, and it doesn’t involve being spanked on the brain with any drugs either! In most cases it’s a relatively straightforward compulsive behavior that can be fixed in a single online session, using my unique style of hypnotic breakthrough.
I don’t offer conventional therapy, and of course I certainly don’t offer drugs. I just offer a proven, effective way of helping you unravel the deeper cause of your spending problem. Learn more on the FAQ page, or simply use the button below to talk to me directly:
7. Supporting a Loved One with Shopping Addiction
If you think someone close to you is wrestling with a shopping addiction, your support can be a game-changer!
Here’s how you can make a real difference in their life, without being sucked (any further) into their spiral:
- Talk with Empathy: Approach your loved one with genuine concern and understanding. Let them know you’re worried about them and that, from your perspective, you can see a real problem growing
- Make it Personal: If the loved one is your wife, husband or partner, then you’re also being affected by their spending. Without any anger, finger-wagging or a raised voice, point that out to them, before gently guiding them towards a solution
- Be a Safe Space: Offer a judgment-free zone where they can open up about their struggles, knowing you’re against the problem and behavior, not against them. If they’ve hidden things in the past then just be glad they’re opening up to you now, rather than giving in to anger or resentment, which will just make them close up again
- Help with Money Stuff But Not Money: Offer to help them work out a budget, recommend a phone budgeting app or even buy them a spending diary, but never help them by giving them money directly!
That last one, not helping with money, is a tough one I know!
Often their desperation for money is what drove them to reveal their problem to you in the first place (or made it impossible to hide). Refusing someone who is desperate is not a pleasant or easy thing to do, I understand.
Remember though, supporting someone with shopping addiction requires a delicate balance of empathy and boundaries. Taking care of your own well-being is equally important, and you should never help them by directly giving them money or paying off their debts. That’s like helping an alcoholic by buying them another bottle!
9. Preventing Relapse and Maintaining Recovery
Maintaining recovery from shopping addiction when using my breakthrough method shouldn’t require ongoing effort or vigilance, because you just won’t have those compulsive urges anymore.
It’s not magic; it just looks and works like magic!
However, if you’ve recently used the ‘brute force willpower’ method, or any other method that doesn’t address the root cause, then these are the common strategies you’ll be told to prevent relapse and support your long-term recovery:
- Identify Triggers: Recognize the situations, emotions, or environmental factors that trigger your urge to shop excessively. Develop strategies to cope with these triggers effectively
- Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Find alternative ways to manage stress, anxiety, or boredom that don’t involve shopping. Engage in other activities that bring you joy and fulfillment instead
- Surround Yourself with Support: Build a support network of friends, family, or support groups who understand and can provide you with encouragement and accountability
- Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities, such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques, to promote overall well-being and reduce the urge to rely on shopping as your go-to coping mechanism
- Set Realistic Goals: Establish realistic financial goals and develop a budget to ensure responsible spending, to avoid falling back into your destructive habits
Remember, (conventional) recovery is a journey, and setbacks may occur. It’s essential to stay committed to your recovery plan and seek support when needed… bletch!
Does that section above sound incredibly boring, and not really practical? I agree! That’s why I keep offering you my friendly green button instead 😉
Shopping addiction is a real and complex behavioral addiction that can have serious and significant impacts on your life.
Recognizing the signs is a great start, and accepting you have a real problem is the first step towards recovery.
The next step is up to you?